Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for May 2, 2012

Newsline: Blind Chinese dissident has left US embassy, says US envoy

U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke has confirmed that blind dissident Chen Guangcheng had spent six days inside the embassy compound, seeking asylum. Locke told the Washington Post that Chen had left the embassy compound to be treated for a foot injury at a Beijing hospital. It was the first official US confirmation that diplomats had been sheltering Chen. The Chinese Foreign Ministry has said it was extremely unhappy about the US Embassy giving refugee to Chen. “The US method was interference in Chinese domestic affairs, and this is totally unacceptable to China. China demands that the United States apologise over this, thoroughly investigate this incident, punish those who are responsible, and give assurances that such incidents will not recur,” Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said.



Newsline: US embassy sounds alarm as explosions rock Kabul

Two explosions, including a suicide car bomb targeting foreign guesthouses, rocked Kabul on Wednesday after US President Barack Obama paid a surprise visit on the anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death. Smoke was rising from the guesthouse near the Afghan capital’s main airport and at least two wounded people were seen, one woman suffering from serious burns, said an AFP photographer on the scene. The other explosion hit a nearby area a few minutes later. The US embassy, which neighbours the AFP bureau in Kabul, said its embassy was “under lockdown” and warned staff to “take cover, move away from the windows”. “Duck and cover here at the embassy. Not a drill – avoid the area,” the US embassy said on Twitter. Obama earlier dropped from night skies into Kabul on a brief visit amid secrecy and tight security and signed a deal with President Hamid Karzai, cementing 10 years of US aid for Afghanistan after NATO combat troops leave in 2014.


Newsline: British Embassy in Washington redesigns entrance

Big year for the British Embassy here in Washington: A new ambassador, lots of parties for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympics — and a new showcase of British art. “Although the embassy is new for me, it’s not new for you,” said Susie Westmacott, wife of Ambassador Peter Westmacott. “It’s interesting for regular visitors to see something different.” Now guests at the grand residence on Massachusetts Avenue will find a mix of old and new British artists: There’s a Barbara Hepworth painting in the living room (next to a window looking out at her sculpture in the garden), William Hogarth in the dining room, Peter Blake (on loan from the Tate) and one of Damien Hirst’s spotted paintings in the hallway, and two coronation paintings. There is one piece in the ballroom by an American artist: Andy Warhol’s portrait of Queen Elizabeth II. But the biggest change is in the grand, two-story entrance: Huge portraits of King George III and Queen Charlotte are still hanging around, but the two-story hall is now covered in 118 prints — most from the late-18th century — to complement the Georgian-style architecture of the house. Think it’s easy to switch around a few paintings? Not when they belong to Britain’s Government Art Collection, which decides what art hangs where around the world. The Westmacotts had to get permission to move the embassy’s existing paintings and hang the new installation in the foyer. Sometimes the bureaucrats listen to ambassadorial preferences, sometimes they don’t.


Newsline: Iran plot to kill Saudi envoy in Cairo foiled

Egyptian security services foiled an Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Cairo several months ago, the legal advisor of the kingdom’s embassy said in local dailies. Egypt “arrested three Iranians planning to assassinate the ambassador, Ahmed Qattan,” Al-Hayat quoted Sami Jamal as saying. “Egyptian authorities informed concerned parties at the Saudi foreign ministry of the details of the plot, but the Saudi side opted to keep silent on the matter,” Jamal said. The arrests were made three months ago. Questioned about the reports, a spokesman for Iran’s foreign ministry, Ramin Mehmanparast, told reporters in Tehran that the allegation was “absolutely incorrect.” “Manufacturing such issues can only help divisions among Muslim countries and benefit the Zionist regime (Israel),” he said. Riyadh on Saturday recalled its ambassador from Cairo after angry protests outside the Saudi embassy in Cairo over the arrest of an Egyptian human rights lawyer in the Gulf kingdom. Saudi state news agency SPA said the Cairo embassy as well as the kingdom’s consulates in the Mediterranean cities of Alexandria and Suez were closed. In October, the United States accused Iran of plotting to kill the Saudi ambassador to Washington. Iran has fiercely denied any involvement in the alleged plot.